TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Vila Brothers Park in Tampa is in the middle of a serious facelift and will host a grand opening Monday, just in time for Memorial Day.
“I’m so proud,” said Martha Vila. “I’m so proud to represent the family.”
Martha Vila will have even more reason to be proud of her family when the park is rededicated. Located on Armenia Avenue, the park is named after seven brothers who served in various branches of the military during conflicts from World War II to the Gulf War.
“I thought my husband was crazy when he said he wanted to leave something for future generations,” Vila recalled. “But I look around now, and I say, ‘What a beautiful tribute he’s leaving to our country and to the family.'”
Vila’s husband, Hector, helped lead his six brothers in creating the park years ago.
“He said, ‘I am so proud,'” Vila shared. “‘So proud of my family. I would like to leave something for the future generations to know of my pride.'”
After functioning as an effectively empty lot with a playground for years, funding in 2018 and 2020 helped improve the park. Then the city allocated $1.7 million from the budget for huge upgrades last year.
“I couldn’t believe it at the beginning,” Vila remembered. “We were so honored when the mayor called and said she wanted to come over.”
The latest updates include shelters, dog parks and a new playground — all in a red, white and blue theme.
“[I’m] hoping that the people that are here will learn to respect and honor the freedom we have in this country,” Vila said.
Though Vila knows she might not have many years left and probably won’t see the final form of the park — she’s two months away from 90 years old — this park has become a part of her legacy as well.
“Children will learn a lot about their country,” Vila said of her hopes for the park. “Through the colors, through stories, through symbols and hopefully, someday, it’ll become a teaching park.”
Monday’s grand opening will be at the park at 700 North Armenia Avenue at 10 a.m. and is open to the public. After the ceremony, there will be a community celebration and family fun activities.